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The Faerie Queene, A Close Reading

1491 words - 6 pages

The Faerie Queene; a close reading The first four stanzas of Spenser's Faerie Queene introduce us to the Redcrosse Knight and Una, two of the main characters in book one. We meet Redcrosse "pricking on the plain," which meant riding or galloping forth in Spenser's day. He carries with him a silver shield and is clothed in strong armour that is dented and damaged from wounds in previous battles. However, he has not done the damage because "arms till that time did he never wield." Therefore he is wearing armour owned by someone else. The horse he rides is unruly and fights against its restraints, the "curbe" being a strap under the lower jaw of the horse that is fastened to the upper ends of the bitt, which is used to keep an unruly horse in check. We are told he seems jolly and sits "faire" upon his horse. Faire, in this case, means upright and just in conduct, as well as describing someone who is "with promise." The stanza ends with the knight being described as fit for jousts and fierce encounters.The introduction seems straightforward enough with the exception of the previously worn armour. Because Redcrosse himself has never had to pick up arms, or even wear armour, we are shown he is inexperienced, thus a shred of doubt is then cast upon his abilities. His unmanageable horse is also worrying because a knight's greatest asset and weapon is his horse, and an inability to control it could be deadly. Therefore, in stanza one, a picture is painted of an inexperienced and possibly unprepared knight with a joyous heart and sincere integrity.Stanza two adds details to the picture painted in stanza one. We are told Redcrosse has a blood-red cross on his breast, which he wears in remembrance of the crucifixion of his Lord Jesus Christ. The fourth line elaborates that Redcrosse adored, or reveres Christ in death as much as in life. A similar cross was blazoned on his shield for "soveraine hope, which in his helpe he had," or for God, the father of Christ (soveraine meaning one who is above others) whose help he had. We are told Redcrosse is faithful and true both in word and action, but takes himself too seriously (reference line 8 "" "but of his cheere did seeme too solemne sad.) The stanza ends saying that although Redcrosse dreaded nothing, he was ever in dread because of his attitude.More disconcerting details are given in this stanza that add complexity to the Knight's character. Spenser spent six of the nine lines describing Redcrosse's religious devotion, not only to God, but his son, Jesus Christ. In those six lines we find out that Redcrosse is a Christian knight because of his belief in Jesus Christ, a devout follower, and has God on his side. The last three lines of the stanza, however, introduce a character flaw in Redcrosse. He is too concerned with himself and has an overall sense of dread because of it. These, along with the doubts cast upon his knightly abilities in the first stanza bring a darker side to an otherwise holy knight.Now...

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